During an interview on the French television show, Cineastes de Notre Temps, Truffaut discussed his need to have at least three reasons to make a film. In contrast, with Stolen Kisses, the third Doinel film, he had only one reason and that was to work with Jean-Pierre Leaud once more, and you can tell. The film is tonally and stylistically all over the place. While it may not be balanced, that does not make it a bad film, in fact it is a great film.
We meet Doinel for the third time, as he is being to be dishonourably discharged from the army. He clearly has no problem with this as he makes the situation worse by acting out in juvenile ways, as he always does. His search for love in the wrong places starts immediately as he ventures to a brothel in a hurry. While Colette may be out of his life, we soon discover he is once again in an almost identical situation with Christine Darbon, played by Claude Jade.
Antoine returns to Christine’s home to the surprise and welcome of her parents, who have presumably fallen for him as Colette’s parents had in Antoine and Colette. The film’s tonal unbalance works to its favour as it reflects the immaturity and instability of Doinel. Verging on absurdist comedy, Antoine attempts several jobs, falls for many women and learns nothing from his mistakes.While he is now in early adulthood, he appears no less childish than he did in Antoine and Colette.
The film’s look and feel is drastically different from the two previous Doinel outings. Embracing both the more adventurous stylistic approaches of the French New Wave as well as taking cues from American thrillers, the film has a kinetic pace that is quite refreshing. That being said, Truffaut also knows when to slow down and allow a scene to play out, whether it be for comedic or dramatic effect. The most striking difference between Stolen Kisses and the previous adventures is that this film is shot in colour.
The new colour pallet means a new view on Paris, one no longer seen from a child’s perspective. This new Paris is not as innocent as before, it is one full of desire, desire that clearly Doinel is not mature enough to handle. As he stumbles into becoming a private detective, his life becomes preoccupied by both his new job and his new love interest, the wife of one of his clients.
The strikingly beautiful New Wave icon Delphine Seyrig plays Fabienne Tabard, his client’s wife, who seems to return the infatuation. Even though he is always searching for love or at least what can be mistaken as love, when someone returns the feeling, he backs off scared of actually receiving what he has been searching for. This is seen with Fabienne Tabard’s romantic approaches but even more so when his former love interest, or rather obsession, Christine begins to feel what he used to feel.
It is not until she forces an encounter between herself and Doinel that he succumbs to her feelings, and finally acts in maturity, a first for the series. Throughout the film, we see a mysterious figure following Christine around Paris. We assume this figure is a private detective, but in one of the last shots he admits his undying love to Christine. “He is crazy” she states, while Doinel replies “he is”, it is not judgement but rather recognition of his previous acts and tendencies.
Stolen Kisses may signal a maturing Doinel, however as we have seen previously, Doinel is only happy with the idea of love and not the reality of it. Doomed to repeat himself, Doinel ends happy with his love, Christine, but the pessimist in all of us knows, it cannot last.